Guidelines for PhD Research Proposal

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What is a PhD research proposal?

A PhD research proposal is a statement of possible research that a student proposes to study during his/her PhD course. Usually PhD duration is of three or more years, and therefore, the identified problem or area of research should be big enough to be studied throughout this time.

What are the contents of a PhD research proposal?

Although proposals differ in their writing style, some of the basic contents of a PhD research proposal are as follows:

Title page: A title page should contain the name of the proposed research, candidate, supervisor (if known) and the department or school to which it will be submitted.

Research Title: The proposed research title should be clear, precise and should summarise the details which are given in the proposed research.

Introduction: A proposal starts with the introduction of research problem and some background information that supports or validates the existence of stated problem and need for the proposed research.

Rationale or research questions: This section gives reasons for why this research is significant. It also put forward some questions which will be addressed in the proposed research. An alternative of research questions is hypothesis, which the student will prove or reject through his/her research.

Literature Review: A literature review summarises the nature of studies which have been already done in the field of proposed research. It will bring out the gaps and arguments in the existing research that support the need of the proposed research, and how the proposed research will fill those gaps.

Aims and Objective: Aim and objectives will highlight what will be the outcome of the proposed research.

Methodology: Methodology section gives the details of how the student will carry out the proposed research. Here, student needs to provide information on data required, process of data collection, various possible data sources, data analysis, methods and techniques to be applied and research presentation.

Ethical Considerations: If the research involves questionnaire or interviews with human beings, then international universities require an ethical approval prior to the beginning of the research. This is done to save the personal freedom and for the safety of the participants. In the research proposal student needs to mention that ethical approval will be taken prior to the beginning of the field research involving human beings.

Budget: A few research proposals also require budget information. Budget information include the amount of total expected cost both direct and indirect, cost of any equipment required, cost of field study, accommodation and conference participation etc. If any other organisation is sponsoring the project then that information should also come in this section.

Timeline: Usually most PhDs take three or more years, but this section contains detailed time table for the project, such as, time spent on literature review, primary and secondary data collection, data analysis, writing and presentation.

Conclusion: Some research proposals also contain a section titled as conclusion which restate the significance of the proposed research in the theoretical and practical world.

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Are all research proposals same?

The idea of the research proposal is same i.e. propose a study during your PhD. However, slight variations can be observed in the format of research proposal according to the subject of research. For specialised fields it is a good strategy to look into the past research proposal of the students who have pursued PhD in that subject.

A few common format of research proposal format are as follows:

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Sample 1:

  • Topic
  • Background
  • Objective
  • Scope
  • Methodology and Approach
  • Facilities
  • Budget
  • Deliverables and Programme Schedule
  • References.

Sample 2:

  • Proposed Research Topic
  • Purposes
  • Background
  • Scope
  • Theoretical framework
  • Method
  • Timetable
  • Limitations
  • References

Sample 3:

  • Topic
  • Overview
  • Introduction
  • The Problem
  • Research Plan
  • References

Sample 4:

  • Topic
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Budget
  • Expected results
  • Bibliography / References

What should be the size of a research proposal?

At times, universities give some details about the size of a research proposal in which case one has to follow that rule. In other cases a normal proposal may vary from five to ten or more pages. The size of a research proposal also varies with academic disciplines, and it is advisable to enquire about it from the subject supervisor.

How to make a successful research proposal?

A carefully planned research proposal is a key to success. However, funding organisations and universities also look for the following details before accepting a research proposal:

  • Does the research proposal address a significant issue?
  • Are research questions are relevant to the topic and align with aim and objectives?
  • Does student has adequate knowledge about the proposed research?
  • Is the suggested methodology sound and practical?
  • Is student capable to carry out and complete the proposed research successfully?
  • Is the suggested timeline is manageable?
  • Is there any market value of the proposed research?

What are the tips to write a research proposal?

  • Writing a research proposal require research interest, lot of reading and patience.
  • It is often advised to be in a regular communication with potential supervisor who may help in making research proposal by giving value advice.
  • Ask others to read your proposal and revise before sending it.
  • Look out for English and grammar mistakes.
  • Do not over- or under-promise.

Use references appropriately. Often Indian students make a mistake of not putting references, which is a crime in foreign universities.

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176 thoughts on “Guidelines for PhD Research Proposal

  1. I am in the process of preparing my concept paper for commencement of PhD. studies in Entrepreneurship Development.I appeal for your assistance especially in the areas of Family Enterprise Succession Planning.Kindly assist.

  2. I want write a PhD proposal about “Employment Opportunities and Development: The Case of Rural Women in Bangladesh”. send me some proposal sample.

  3. I have completed my M.Sc. Biotechnology in India. I want to do my PhD in Immunology and molucular biology. So tell me the easy way to prepare my research proposal. I want to apply for PhD in europian countries. Thank you.

  4. I am planning to apply to start my phd degree in one of the Malaysian universities. My field is Education – TESOL and I did my MA in UK recently. The area of my interest is ‘Teachers voice in the classroom’ however, until now I couln’t specify the topic and study that I need work on. I appreciate your assistance.

  5. I do wish to embark on phd in marketing in Australia or new zealand , I hold a Bsc in Business Administration and Msc in business Information System , my question is would the university admit me for marketing ? and can you assist me on the research proposal (marketing)and can u send me sample for my study also. thanks.

  6. I have completed my master degree from states and looking to get my phd .writing a successful phd proposal is required to get a chance in a Uk universities.could y please help with that. I’m interesting working in embeded systems field.

  7. I completed my Masters degree in Haematology and blood transfusion from the a Nigerian University
    I want to pursue a PhD in Haematology from either a UK university or any other foreign University. I need your assistance in writing a successful PhD proposal. I equally need your help with such a University. My area of interest is coagulation/thrombosis . thanks for your help.

  8. I hav done msc Biotechnology(hons). I want to get enroll in phd in australia. So that my husband can go along with me. I want to do phd in stem cell. Please help me how can i get enroll in phd and making project proposal.

  9. I want to write a phd proposal in Inorganic Chemistry. I need some samples to give me idea about it.
    would you please send me some.

  10. i want to apply Phd in Galway University Ireland . My chosen topic is
    ‘Poverty alleviation and social exclusion of Lone parents in Ireland’
    i need to write a proposal letter and i’m stuck. can u plz help me out :)

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